Are newspaper photojournalists an endangered species?

    by Mark Glaser
    February 26, 2007

    We are living in a time of transition for the old-line media and journalism, with new technologies and Internet distribution making old jobs obsolete. Recently, ex-newspaper guy Alan Mutter wrote that, “With almost everyone packing pixels nowadays, spot-news photographers are the most endangered species at our newspapers.” He noted that when he saw the Queen Mary 2 go under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco recently, he went to compare photos posted on Flickr with those shot by San Francisco Chronicle photographers. “Although the Chronicle had several fine photographers stationed at key vantage points to record the arrival of the largest ship ever to enter San Francsico Bay, their shots were no better — and posted no more rapidly — than those taken by the Flickr clickers,” he concluded. With so many efforts by media companies to harness photos taken by the public, are the professional news photographer’s days numbered? Or do you think their job will change with the times? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll highlight the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    • With all the photographers around the country (and world) learning to shoot video, record audio, and create multimedia presentations of their work, I think the craft will continue to adapt and evolve.

      ‘F8 and be there’ won’t cut it anymore. I can do that with my sub-$300 5-megapixel point & shoot.

    • Photojournalists over-estimate their ability to be the “best” shooters of breaking news and the type of public events that happen in front of all of us. A quick trip through Flickr proves that. But photojournalists do something a lot of us can’t — immerse themselves in lives and issues and bring back images that are not only true and touching but, in the best cases, iconic. Maybe if the citizens are willing to shoot the easy stuff, our photogs can be freed up to do the difficult, essential storytelling.

    • They will survive if they are more that “picture snappers”, the journalist background will be what separates them from the crowd. And the attitude to be on top of subjects and technologies used.

    • Although it looks like the photojournalists are most endangered species in the newspapers office, in fact it isn’t. One can argue that better than the report published on the newspapers are blog entries by citizen but that doesn’t mean that journalists are out of job.

      Newspapers may use a few photographs from the Flickr or others, but they can’t always rely upon the citizens. They need somebody to get assign.

    • Mutter Wades into Dan Gillmour territory. Both arguments miss important points.

      Mutter essentially asks: So what’s the point of staff shooters? You need the staffers to find the stuff that’s not obvious, the vision-driven work, the crusading work, the work that takes time and dedication of a sort not available to bloggers. You need the staffers as the conversation starters. Then you have to embrace the architecture of participation and let the community turn the story into a conversation.

      Gillmour says shooters are in emise. But one weakness in Gillmour’s argument was that he equated photojournalism only with breaking news; he walked back on that. But he still insists his argument holds water. I don’t buy it. Owning a camera or a keyboard doesn’t automatically make you good with either or both, even though it does allow you to participate in the conversation. The business model of news organization is based in part on the dependability of those who report the news — day in, day out dependability, week after week, year after year — to feed a dependable, trusted brand in which consumers and advertisers are invested with time and money. You simply can’t be dependable if you rely on the blogosphere.

    • Paul

      I dont believe the professional Photojournalist is an endangered species. In fact, I believe there will be more opportunity for a photojournalist with the rise of online news sites. Of course, a professional photographer can not be everywhere to cover news events and people with cameras and cell phone cameras will get shots. But those people are a kin to an eyewitness at an accident, and their accounts of an event are sometimes suspect. Ten people at and event will give you ten different stories and the true who, what, where, why, and when will be up for grabs. Can photographs taken from web sites, which might be uploaded by anyone, be considered news records? How can anyone be certain if they have or have not been manipulated in some way to create a hoax or distort a news story? The Professional Photojournalist acts on a higher level then the general public, the news photographer has a certain standard of ethics and knows that it is his/her job to show the real event without any personal agenda.

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